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British Industrial History

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Charles Heath

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Charles Theodosius Heath (1785–1848), landscape and figure engraver

1785 born at 13 Lisle Street, Leicester Square, London, only son of James Heath with his second (common law) wife, Mary Phillipson[1], step-brother of George Thomas Heath

His talents were apparent at an early age - an impression taken of his etching of the head of a housemaid, engraved when he was six years old, is in the British Museum.

At first he specialized in topographical prints. This was followed by smaller engravings for popular editions of the classics.

1802 He was a pioneer in new printmaking techniques. From 1802 to 1806 he exhibited lithographs at Somerset House.

1808 Married Elizabeth Petch (1787–1861); they had eight children, two of whom died in childhood.

He developed a particular strength in figure work.

1820 Engraved the first plates on mild steel rather than copper, giving much longer production runs from each plate.

1820 He diversified into security engraving for banknotes in the 1820s, through the family firm of Perkins, Fairman, and Heath.

1821 Made bankrupt but quickly recovered by diversifying into the new fashion for illustrated annuals and giftbooks.

1826 Again got into financial difficulties.

For many years he acted as J. M. W. Turner's impresario in enabling the artist's watercolours to be engraved.

1828 Largely relied on assistants and journeymen engravers.

Eventually his engravings became somewhat mechanical and went out of fashion, as other processes such as lithography and photogravure developed.

1840 With his son, Frederick, he was responsible for engraving on steel the master die for the world's first postage stamps.

Owing to the failure of his major debtors, Charles Heath was obliged to sell off his large stock of engravings.

1842 trustees were appointed to manage his finances.

1848 Suddenly died at home in Euston, London.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  • Heath family biography, ODNB